Assigned to a bug! Let the questions begin . . .
Finally I found a bug that has been forgotten by most of the world! Actually, it’s a request for a new feature in Popcorn Maker to allow custom google map urls to upload in the site. I posted a comment explaining my interest and that I set up the dev environment to reproduce the site locally along with a proposal of where to start next.
Thankfully, I got a response quickly afterwards by a contributor who gave me a more concrete (and correct) starting place. Next I spent several hours trying to decipher his comment, looking up terms, reviewing node.js, reviewing the code and formulating . . . more questions! It can be discouraging to understand so little but I think learning to ask semi-informed questions is invaluable. I have to keep reminding myself that I am not expected to not need any help on my first bug and that instead I am expected to ask questions and seek the answers. Just knowing how to phrase questions has been a great challenge for me.
How to carry on when you don’t know what you’re doing
Last night I went to a PDX maptime meetup and there was a discussion about impostor syndrome. I asked how this syndrome applied to people who are inexperienced and new to coding and I was reminded that we’re all new and inexperienced at something and that’s just a part of the challenge of working in tech. It was comforting to be reminded that we’re all newbies at something. I also enjoyed hearing more experienced developers and mappers say that one of the best things newbies can do is not be afraid to ask questions.
I don’t really have much advice on the “art of question asking” at this point as I am still learning it but I am relieved to know that asking questions and researching online are skills that I can develop with practice. I have much to learn on this but help is out there and practice makes . . . well, more progress! For help on formulating questions I reread Katherine Wu’s blog post on how to be a better junior developer. She offers concrete points on how to make it easier for others to help you and even calls “asking questions” a junior developer’s superpower!
Useful question templates I’ve used to formulate questions
“I am trying to __, so that I can __. I’m running into __. I’ve looked at __ and tried ___.”
“My current undestanding is that I need to __. I’ve found code and docs (documentation or instructions and background info) from __ and started __ (any proactive steps you can take like setting up dev environment, reproducing the bug locally, etc.). I think my next steps are __. Am I on the right track?”
What I will do when not working on my bug
Besides looking for ways to touch up Mozilla and Ascend documentation for newbies and searching for an easier bug to work on (for the joy of submitting a patch!) I will be working on my OPW internship application and patch submissions. I am very excited about the prospects of a internship with OPW. I’ve been hesistating to jump into the patches because I am not sure I understand where to start so for now I will use my newly discovered superpower of asking questions to make sure I am on the right track. It’s easy for me to feel like I should already know where to start but asking (even just for confirmation) eases up that expectation, helps me learn more and helps others help me.